Category: NaPiBoWriWee

#NaPiBoWriWee After Party

Just like last year, #NaPiBoWriWee had a “blink and you will miss it vibe”. The daily writing task coupled with Twitter conversations and Paula Yoo’s excellent blog posts made this week blow by. And I don’t want it to end. Do you?

You see, I have these six (yes, six, I fell one short this year) rough drafts that need sharpening. Just like yours (although you have seven, right?). Care to join me in a #NaPiBoWriWee online after party crit group?

I’m looking for a handful of other writers to step up and join me for some crit work. Please comment below if you’re interested and we can begin to get it all sorted out.

I had a interesting run of stories. I usually write very boy-centric stuff, but this year they were all over the place. A fable, daredevil squirrels, rhyme, and one I would characterize as a “gramma story”. That is, gramma’s would it buy for their grandkids. I wonder if you can tell from the working titles:

  1. The Big, Big, Super-Sized, Extra-Large Sweater
  2. Milo McChew & The Donut for Two
  3. Chickadee, Chicka-doo
  4. Squirrels Are Made from Danger
  5. Roz Wellington, Girl Believer
  6. The Glasshopper

Roz Wellington is my favorite. She started as a character sketch a couple of years ago, but I never wrote about her until this week. I like her and her story. She’s got spunk. Don’t you want to meet her? (Wait, am I coming across as too needy? I should totally be cooler about this. I’m just not that cool).

As always, huge thanks to Paula Yoo for making this happen. It’s a real treat to be part of this little picture book community. I’ve made great writer friends and find daily inspiration from many of you (but not all of you – really, you have to step up your game. I kid.) I can’t wait to meet some of you in person in Fitchburg next week or L.A. this summer.

Even if you don’t join my #NaPiBoWriWee After Party.

Congratulations, You Did It! Now What?

I just finished a hectic, and productive, week of NaPiBoWriWee and I’m gearing up for the NESCBWI conference this coming weekend. I’m cranking out some work for the conference, and trying to catch up on Day Job. Which means not a lot of time for blogging. However, I remembered that I had a perfect post in the drawer for this week.

Originally published in 2005 as a Goals Gone Wild newsletter, the message is still appropriate for anyone living deadline to deadline. That’s you right?

Living the Project Based Life

I totally rock. In the last couple of weeks I’ve been in a musical revue, run the Falmouth Road Race and completed a major life goal. I’m living the dream and things couldn’t be better.

How’d I get so lucky?

I realized a long time ago that I have lived most of my life in the middle of one “goal based objective” or another. In both personal and professional areas it’s the type of activity that attracts me. Give me a project, a deadline and a goal and stand back. Web site development, marathon training, and theatrical productions all have one thing in common – the deadline. The show goes up, the gun goes off and the launch date arrives. Woo-hoo! I love it! I love the training, the rehearsing and the planning. I love the adrenaline rush of crunch time and the awesome feeling of success when the goal is achieved. Baby, there ain’t nothing better.

And that’s the problem.


So what do you do when the race is run, and the show closed? Take a break. Relax. Heck, you’ve just worked your butt off for weeks and need some downtime to recharge. Right?

Wrong. At least for me, and I bet for many of you too.

The first day or two it is nice to kick back. But then, suddenly it’s a week. Maybe two. You’ve got time to kill. You’ve got that itch and nothing to fill it. Sometimes it gets nasty. Post “show/race/project” Depression. The blues. Maybe there are other things you should be on top of but they just don’t have that urgency.

How do we jump start ourselves? How can we get back in the game and be the goal getter we are inside? Where’s my mojo?

Move Your Own Goal Posts

Here’s my trick. Maybe it’s a method. Whatever you want to call it, here it is: Always be making new goals. Before you finish the current big project look around for the next one. Get excited about it and put it on deck.

So the marathon is coming up in a month? Great! Pick another race a few weeks after that! That big project done at the office? Don’t wait! Look at your own inbox. Elevate one that’s been hanging around and get ready to kick its butt.

This doesn’t mean you don’t take a breather. This doesn’t mean you don’t revel in your achievement. Taking care of yourself is a key component of the THRIVE! lifestyle (and I’m sure we all want to THRIVE!, right?).

It does mean look ahead. Plan your next step. Life keeps moving and we need to move with it.

Here are a couple of sayings that fit this issue:

“Life’s a Journey not a Destination”

“Don’t Rest On Your Laurels”

and I’d like to add a couple of my own:

“Activity is Victory”

“The Next Step Is Now”

OK then. Let’s get moving!

NaPiBoWriWee Bloggers

Lifting this list from Paula’s post with additions from the comments. If I missed you, post your blog in the comments and I will add you to the list.

*UPDATED* I’ve added Nancy Sanders to the list. She’s the author of “Yes! You Can Learn How To Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career” the book I was lucky enough to win for participating.

Thanks, Nancy!

NaPiBoWriWee Participant Blog Links:

#NaPiBoWriWee Days 5, 6, 7 and a Wrap Up

I just flew in from #NaPiBoWriWee, and boy are my arms tired. It was a great exercise in writing every day (a constant goal of mine), and I have a better understanding of why it doesn’t happen. I also have a better idea of how to make it happen more often.

Life balance, juggling, time management, sleep deprivation. Whatever you call it, it’s about choices. Do I want to sit and write or do I want to:

  1. Work my day job
  2. Spend time with my family
  3. Clean the kitchen/the bathroom/myself
  4. Exercise
  5. Watch TV
  6. Read a book
  7. Buy groceries so we’re not eyeing each other like it’s the Donner Party Picnic

Choices and goals. This week gave me a clearer picture of how to make it work, and the value of working even when it’s hard. Thanks, Paula. I owe you a hug, or a high-five at least. Same for all the awesome folks who have chimed in and cheered each other on through the week.

OK, on with the show, I’m veering hard to the maudlin.

Day 5

This idea wasn’t on the original list I had made, but I couldn’t resist the title (which popped into my head while hiking around a local pond with my family). I often lock on to a phrase or title, and tease it until a story pops out. I like this one a lot, but again feel it might be a better chapter book or middle grade story than a picture book. Here’s the title, and opening line:

When Is a Polar Bear Not a Polar Bear?

Willa took the news hard, and she decided to do something about it. It took days to get the whole thing set up, and keep it a secret (well, mostly). Today was the day. She stepped off the bus, went to her locker and put on the Polar Bear costume she had hidden there. Now maybe they’d listen!

This is topical, dealing with climate change issues, but I don’t want to focus on the issue, rather the impact it has on Willa and what she does to raise awareness in her school. It’s a very rough draft at the moment, but this one gets a star next to it, for follow up.

By the way, the answer is, “When there’s no more polar there”.

Day 6

Confession time. Day 6 and 7 got away from me. I have the ideas, a rough outline and sketches for Day 6, but the rough draft eluded me. I’m blaming Day Job again. Where’s the life balance when you need it. What? You mean I need to pay the mortgage too? Bah! Hulk smash puny mortgage! But I digress…

Halloween is NOT for Monsters

Halloween is NOT for Monsters!
I just can't let him go.

Doodles work for me too. This little guy to the right appeared a couple of years ago, and I just can’t get him out of my head. I’ve worked up a series of sketches for him that tells the story of a little monster that wants to go trick or treating. His Mom won’t allow it because the monsters let the regular people own Halloween night. He figures out a way to sneak out and trick or treat without revealing himself as a monster.

I guess it’s an homage to the Charles Addams cartoons that I fell in love with as a young boy. I remember getting odd looks from the librarian checking out a collection when in second grade. Of course now I get odd looks from librarians for checking out children’s books. What’s with all the judgement, librarians?

Day 7

I knew this was going to be a tough one. I’ve had this title in mind since last summer, and just can’t find the story in it. Cute character, interesting situation. No conflict that satisfies. The Unicorn Whistle remains to be written. Someday…

Now it’s time to put these stories away for a bit. I hit the pause button on two projects in order to do #NaPiBoWriWee and I’m chomping at the bit to get back to them. Hope your week was equally refreshing. I’d love to know if any of your rough drafts from this week make it to submission and publication.

My Alternative PB Titles for #NaPiBoWriWee*

Inspired by my two-year old, these are the books I could have written this week.

  1. An Encyclopedia of Tantrums
  2. The Apple Cinnamon Song
  3. Yes, That Is a Trapezoid
  4. The Toddler That Woke Up at 5 am and Ruined Daddy’s Writing Time
  5. It’s Too Late For the Potty If You’ve Already Pooped
  6. Daddy Can Only Count To Three
  7. Time Out!

Back to writing. Must finish Day 5 and start Day 6.

*NaPiBoWriWee is National Picture Book Writing Week. More info here and here if you’re curious.

NaPiBoWriWee, Days 3 & 4.

Day three and four were a little rougher, mostly due to increased time constraints (day job). I also went off the rails a bit with my simple outline plan. Day three’s story started simple and took off on me. I think it would be a better chapter book or middle grade novel. At least this rough draft is done and I can always go back and edit it down (or up) for its next incarnation.

Day four’s idea came out of the April 19/20 #pblitchat about characterization. I added a comment about setting being an important component of characterization:

“On the moon” changes the characterization sharply from “in Mom’s kitchen”.

and the title “In My Mom’s Kitchen on the Moon” got stuck in my head. A little noodling later, and I had a concept to go with it. Ta-da!

The story is told through twelve spreads. The spreads are designed as one long illustration of Mom’s kitchen on the Moon. Mom flips a pancake. We follow Bobby and the flipping pancake across the spreads. Each one includes a simple chore for Bobby (Oil the robo-dog! Put on your space boots! Help your alien neighbor!) and a flap with moon and space trivia hidden underneath.

Very different from anything I’ve tried before, but I look forward to drawing the extra-long setting. I think I needed a little break from the heavy story I started on day 3. I recruited my math-whiz nephew, his mother and a friend to solve the question of how long a flipped pancake would take to travel across the a room on the moon (nephew said, “So we’re talking simple parabolic ballistics.” I said, “Um, sure.”). We’re still struggling with the initial velocity of a flipped pancake. Yup, kid’s books are easy!

Here, for your reading pleasure, are the first lines from each. Be nice, remember they’re rough drafts.

Day 3

Eubie the World’s Smallest Elephant

The sign had promised, among other things, the World’s Smallest Elephant and it was right. Tickets for Prof. Fantabulo’s Epic Cavalcade of Mysteries and Marvels cost a month’s allowance, but it was worth it. Still, as they crept out between the tent flaps with a backpack full of wriggling elephant they wondered if they had made a terrible mistake.

Day 4

My Mom’s Kitchen on the Moon

It’s breakfast on the Moon, and Bobby can’t wait for his Mom’s famous Mooncakes. He has a few chores to do before they reach his plate. Rocket shoes ready? Let’s go! 5-4-3-2-1, Blast off!

So here we are in Day 5, and I’m starting from another title. Ready for it? “When is a Polar Bear Not a Polar Bear?” If you want to know more you’ll just have to come back again. (How’s that for a tease?)

NaPiBoWriWee, Days 1 & 2.

Two days into NaPiBoWriWee and I’m clicking on all cylinders. Using my favorites from the ideas hatched during NaPiBoIdMo is an enormous help. For one, I have seven ideas that I like on tap. For two, these ideas have been kicking around my noodle for a long time so I can site down with some sense of direction and just write.

My approach has been very simple and that’s helped too. I make a quick outline; beginning, middle and end. I then write for the three acts. This isn’t necessarily artful prose, this is a rough first draft. Beauty, simplicity, character and themes can all be drawn out of it later. This week is about capturing that “shitty first draft” as Ann Lamont calls it.

Just for fun, and maybe a nice comment or two ( hey I can fish for feedback), here are the openings to the two stories written so far this week.

Day 1:

Spenser’s Pencil

“You have ONE hour to do you homework. No computer, no games, no phone calls. Do you understand me, mister?”

The door slammed and Spenser was left alone in his room, cut off from the outside world, just a boy and his homework. He looked at the worksheets on his desk and reached for his pencil. It rolled away.

Day 2:

The Adventures of Li’l Mister Monkey and Sailor Boy

It started as a joke, as so many things do.

“Let’s sail to the moon!” said Sailor Boy.

Li’l Mister Monkey thought it was a terrific idea, and soon they were plotting a course using sea charts and star maps.

Five days to go, five stories to write. It’s a fun ride, and I hope you’re finding success with your work too.


Jim's Mug o' Brain Fuel.
Jim's Mug o' Brain Fuel. Too little, too late.

Woke up this morning, thought it was May 1 and started writing my first story for #NaPiBoWriWee. Doh. Now I have a quandary. The rules (guidelines?) for  National Picture Book Writing Week state that you’re not supposed to write anything before May 1st.

Is there a loophole for those suffering from 5 am chronological dissonance?

Should I drink coffee first, write second?

NaPiBoWriWee 2010

There’s been a flurry of sketchbook activity and notebook reviewing as I get ready for NaPiBoWriWee 2010, founded by the amazing Paula Yoo. That’s National Picture Book Writing Week 2010 for the acronym challenged.

To get ready I revisited my notes and ideas from Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month. Seriously did I have to spell that one out too?). To my great surprise, tucked away in that little Google Docs file were a number of solid ideas for a productive week of picture book writing. I’ve also added a few more since then in sketchbooks, text files, napkins and post-its. Enough so that I feel great about seven FIRST DRAFTS in seven days.

Did you see the ALL CAP emphasis? That’s because this is about getting those rough first drafts down for revision. Later. Paula says it quite nicely, allow me to borrow her words for a minute:

Having said that… I want everyone to have fun with this! I’m not expecting Shakespeare or “Goodnight Moon.” This is an attempt to encourage people to finally write that picture book they’ve been dreaming of… please think of this as a fun opportunity to brainstorm and finally write that first rough draft that you can go back to later and revise and improve upon. So often we  procrastinate or convince ourselves that our idea for a picture book is not “good enough.” So NaPiBoWriWee is a fun way to have everyone GO FOR BROKE and write 7 picture books in 7 days and see what happens!

Sounds like a great idea.

The hardest part of the next ten days will be following one of the other rules; no pre-writing. Brainstorming, outlining, and I assume sketching, are allowed, but save the text for that week. Well, my brain is storming away. I’ll be ready to hit the keys on May 1. How about you?